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Alison Sinclair
Orion Millennium, 300 pages

Alison Sinclair
Alison Sinclair was born in Colchester, England, raised in Edinburgh, Scotland, and Victoria, British Columbia. She graduated from the University of Victoria with a B.Sc. Honours Chemistry, Major Physics, and from McMaster University with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. She has worked as a post-doctoral scientist in Boston, USA, and Leeds, England, before entering the University of Calgary in 1995 to study Medicine. Graduating in May 1999, she is now a resident in Anatomic Pathology in Calgary.

Alison Sinclair Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Cavalcade

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon


"The [alien] message in all its forms was brief. They were representatives of a mixed community of sentient species who had been exploring the galaxy for hundreds of thousands of years. If any human wanted to join them, they would be welcome. They need only be standing within ten metres of the waterline of a body of salt water, at night, in twenty-three day's time."
As Cavalcade opens, the thousands of people who took up this alien invitation find they have been instantaneously transported to a vast, strange cavern. They are a huge, motley crowd consisting of those people who would risk anything to embark on this greatest human adventure and those -- in great numbers -- who had nothing on Earth left to lose. Some have brought their families, pets and cherished possessions; others have brought nothing but the clothes on their backs; still others are drunk and just coming to the appalled realization that this wasn't a hoax after all.

Stan Morgan, turbo-geek, is part of a NASA team sent to make contact with the aliens and determine if they constitute a threat to Earth. It doesn't take Stan long to realize just how difficult this is going to be. Not only are there no aliens in sight, but every piece of electronic equipment the humans brought has quit working. Worse, he is in a huge crowd of displaced people who will soon need food, water, and some kind of organization to prevent violent chaos.

This is certainly an intriguing opening, and Alison Sinclair follows up with a solid novel. The tale is told primarily through the viewpoints of four Americans: Stan Morgan, Sophie Hemmingway (a pathologist), Stan's niece Hathaway (a pregnant, rebellious 17-year-old), and Stephen Cooper, an emotionally disturbed man on the run from a murder warrant.

Sinclair's protagonists are well portrayed and supported by a solid cast of secondary characters. (I was especially delighted with Marian, a tough-minded English octogenarian who fought in World War II and still carries a Walther PPK under her tweed skirt.) Sinclair also does a detailed and accurate job with the hard science background as her characters struggle to explore a completely alien environment with only a few old-fashioned tools and their ingenuity. Finally, her alien environment is satisfyingly strange and cryptic.

Cavalcade is, in some regards, a formula 'disaster' novel (a cast of diverse characters bands together to survive the tornado/towering inferno/apocalypse/whatever) and I occasionally found characters or events to be just a little too pat; nonetheless it was a compelling and intelligent read, far above average for most SF. Tellingly, the praise quote on the jacket of this book is not from the literary press, but from New Scientist magazine.

Copyright © 2002 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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